In relation to its Japanese auto brethren, Mitsubishi seems to be playing catch-up when it comes to green car offerings. Better known for its sporty Lancer Evolution and decent-selling SUVs, the bigwigs at Mitsubishi announced earlier in the year that they intend to make eco-friendly vehicles a priority for the future (you and everybody else, buddy).
Earlier in the year, we caught wind of Mitsubishi's first eco-oriented vehicle that will come to market - a little jellybean all-electric called the Mitsubishi i MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle). This quirky 2-seater boasts a 63-horsepower engine and 100-mile range (and zero emissions). Small test fleets have been scuttling around Japan since 2008, and from the looks of it, drivers are quite pleased with the i MiEV.
In fact, early success has spurred Mitsubishi to conjure up two i MiEV concept variants, both of which will be on hand at the 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. The first is the Mitsubishi i MiEV Cargo. From the front glass up, this variant looks exactly the same as the original. But from the front door to the rear bumper, the rounded i MiEV morphs into a tall, boxy cargo hauler.
The whole idea sounds a little wonky, but the small cargo carrier retains much of the charm as its smaller brother. The whole idea might be likened to the Nissan Cube. And given the fact that us Americans like to be able to spread out in our vehicles, the i MiEV Cargo may not be such a bad idea after all.
Save for cargo space, all vehicle specs for the i MiEV remain for the Cargo version. Of course, battery range will drop if you're packing extra poundage. And Mitsubishi promises plenty of cargo space will be available - the "cube-shaped luggage compartment at the rear of the vehicle allows every inch of available space to be utilized."
Want an electric Mitsubishi with even more room and a more traditional body frame? Behold the Mitsubishi PX-MiEV crossover suv concept (pictured right). Given the substantial upgrade in size, the little MiEV engine won't be enough to power the new CUV completely. To assist in this endeavor, the EV engine will be paired with a 1.6-liter inline-four engine and internal generator.
Still, the PX-MiEV promises a 30-mile range in full EV mode. A series hybrid mode will kick in once electric power drops (gas motor will recharge the battery), and parallel hybrid system serves as a last resort (gas motor helps move the wheels. Mitsubishi adds some traditional "utility" with the ability to switch over to all-wheel drive (even in full EV mode). Additionally, power can be transferred to the rear wheels via the E-4WD system. Torque can be tweaked via new center differential motor and can also be augmented on the fly depending on conditions.
The green theme of the PX-MiEV continues on the interior with such features as UV-A reflective glass, anti-allergen seat upholstery, oxygen enricher, heat reflective technology and individual air conditioners. Mitsubishi also makes safety a priority on the CUV concept, with features such as exterior perimeter cameras.
The original compact Mitsubishi i MiEV is slated to be released in America before 2012 (earlier in Japan and Europe). Will its bigger brothers join it? Mitsubishi will have to wait to gauge the reception on these variants before making any decisions.